The left side of Susan Wells’ face droops slightly, so when she smiles, it’s a little crooked. But she still smiles – a lot. Never mind the 12 tumors that were removed from her head less than a year ago. Or the fact that this was her fourth battle with the mysterious recurrences. Susan Wells is a survivor who has learned the value of life, friendship, good music and funny television.
In 2001, Susan visited the doctor about a knot behind her ear. As a young woman, she had already survived ovarian cancer. Although she had maintained a clean bill of health for more than 20 years, the unexplained knot was a concern. After an MRI, Susan was told she had Hodgkin’s lymphoma – and six months to live. “When I heard the words, all I could say was ‘thank you’ and then I just walked away completely stunned,” she recalls. “What are you supposed to say to news like that?
Because medicine is as much an art as it is a science, she was encouraged to get a second opinion. The news was better: She did not have cancer, but rather a condition called pleomorphic adenomas, which were benign tumors that needed to be removed. Following surgery, Susan experienced some numbness in her face, but with rehabilitation, she recovered her facial muscles and speech. Life after that was a little sweeter, and included a new job working at Carter BloodCare.
While at Carter BloodCare, Susan, nicknamed “Swells” by her coworkers, earned the reputation for being a passionate and driven worker. But the sixty-hour work weeks were taking a toll. “I started to have headaches again, but I thought it was due to my work load,” she explains. The headaches grew severe, and Susan tried desperately to ignore the little voice inside telling her to see a doctor.
Susan saw a doctor, who ordered the MRI which revealed the very thing she dreaded. The tumors were back. A tumor board of physicians at Baylor determined that there were four tumors, and, despite the risk, they needed to be surgically removed.
Susan woke up from surgery to good and bad news. The good; the tumors were benign. The bad; rather than four tumors, doctors found and removed 12, which meant nerve damage would be extensive. Susan also lost a lot of blood during surgery. “I was going downhill fast,” she recalls. “I felt worse than I had ever felt in my entire life, but it wasn’t pain, because I had plenty of pain meds. I just felt hopeless.” Then a nurse walked in and told Susan it was her lucky day. She was getting blood.
“It’s not just about giving blood, it’s about our lives,” Susan insists. “It’s about not taking anything for granted. It’s about not putting stuff off until later. I often ask people to focus on one person in their lives they love. When they think of that one person, I tell them to go out and do something special for that person; something meaningful – like giving blood! Actually, that’s probably one of the greatest things you can do for someone you love. That’s what life’s about.”
That’s why life is swell.
Your donation can help give someone a new lease on life. Vist CarterBloodCare.org to schedule your donation today.